[Muscle flap transfer of the treatment of infected tibial and malleolar fractures and chronic osteomyelitis of the tibia]

A Nejedlý, V Dzupa, J Záhorka, M Tvrdek
Acta Chirurgiae Orthopaedicae et Traumatologiae Cechoslovaca 2007, 74 (3): 162-70

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: The aim of the study was to evaluate the results of treatment in patients with infected fractures or chronic osteomyelitis in the tibial and ankle regions by radical debridement of skeletal and soft tissues and coverage of the defect, using free flap transfer or muscle flap transposition.

MATERIAL: Between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2004, 26 patients were treated by this method; 13 had infected tibial or ankle fractures and 13 showed osteomyelitis of the tibia. All patients, in the case of failure, would have been indicated for below-knee amputation. The group comprised six women and 20 men at an average age of 46 years (range, 10 to 67 years).

METHODS: In this retrospective study, the following data were recorded: type of injury (multiple trauma, combined trauma, single trauma), fracture type according to the AO classification, grade of injury in open fractures by the Gustillo and Anderson classification, number of previous operations in patients with infected fractures, microbiological findings in all patients before defect coverage with a flap, interval between the injury and flap coverage, number of post-operative complications, number of subsequent operations, period of relief for the treated limb, actual weight-bearing of the limb, patient's satisfaction with the therapy.

RESULTS: Since one patient died of heart attack during follow-up, 25 patients (5 women and 20 men) were included in the final evaluation. The average follow-up was 27 months (range, 15 to 49 months). The healing of infection and union of bone were recorded in 21 patients (84 %). Healing with pseudoarthrosis development occurred in three patients (12 %). One patient (4 %) had to undergo leg amputation due to persistent secretion. The duration of treatment before coverage of the defect was on average 10 weeks (range, 4 weeks to 6 months) in the patients with infected fractures, and 9 years (range, 2 to 20 years) in the patients with osteomyelitis. Post-operative complications were recorded in seven patients (27 %). Impaired vascularization of the flap in the early post-operative period was found in two patients (8 %). In two patients (8 %) residual infected tissue under the flap resulted in purulent secretion. In three patients (12 %), at the time of evaluation, the lower extremity could not bear weight due to non-union of fractured bone.

DISCUSSION: The use of free or transposition muscle is regarded as the optimal method for the treatment of extensive defects of soft tissues in limb traumatology. The advantages include: good quality coverage of the defect; ability of vascularized flap tissue to transport antibiotic to the defect area; long-term improved perfusion in the fracture region is important for fracture healing.

CONCLUSIONS: The treatment of infected tibial and malleolar fractures by debridement and subsequent coverage of soft tissue defects, using muscle flap transfer, permits elimination of infection in most of the patients, but often requires subsequent surgery in order to provide biological stimulation for healing of defective fractures. Treatment of osteomyelitis of the tibia by this method is demanding, but has a good prospect of healing in a period shorter than is necessary for treatment without muscle flap transfer.

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